Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognise as someone else's…
"Alice, we can't raise a child in times like this! We're at war; it's too dangerous!"
For some reason, that line kept repeating itself in Alice Longbottom's head as her parents pushed the wheelchair she was in towards the 'Enquiries' desk. He was gone, she knew it. It had been for real this time. He would not be coming back.
"Hello," her mother greeted the witch behind the desk politely, "we're here to see Healer Russell."
"We aren't ready for a baby! Even if the world was a peaceful place, we wouldn't be! Alice, we're only twenty-three years old!"
"But the Potters – "
"Merlin knows what they were thinking when they decided to keep their baby. Alice – we can't keep it."
"Healer Russell is in a meeting now," the witch told them. "So unless this is an emergency, I can't call her now."
"My daughter's water just broke. Is that enough of an emergency for you?" Alice's father almost shouted at the witch. He became angry rather easily since he'd found out that his daughter was pregnant and his son-in-law didn't really want anything to do with the baby.
The woman's eyes widened. "Yes, sir, of course. I'm sorry. I'll go and try to contact Healer Russell right away. Why don't you take a seat?"
Muttering under his breath, Alice's father pushed her wheelchair over to the waiting area, her mother following closely behind. It was close to midnight, July 29th, and St Mungo's was deserted.
"Alice, be reasonable: we both have full-time jobs, how do you think we could raise a child in the chaos that is our lives?"
"We'll find a way, Frank, I could get a part-time job and – "
"Isn't being an Auror what you always wanted? And you're willing to give that up already?"
He wasn't here, although he should have been. He should have been there, should have been happy, if only for her, if he couldn't be happy for himself.
"Alice, dear, how are you feeling?" Suddenly, Alice was pulled out of her misery by Healer Diana Russell. She forced herself to smile and nod, while trying to blink away her tears. Her father pushed the wheelchair towards the elevators, and her mother and the Healer walked a couple of steps behind them, probably talking about the not-so-mysterious absence of the father-to-be.
He had left before, but he always came back. They would be fine for some time, and then the fighting would start again, and he'd leave. For a couple of days. It had been over two weeks now. He was not coming back.
Before she knew it, Alice was out of the wheelchair, lifted upon a bed and made ready for giving birth. She was scared to death, but her parents were with her, fortunately. She was an Auror, yes, but this had to be the most frightening thing she had ever gone through.
"We can't do this, Alice, we simply can't! Is this the life you would want for a baby? We'll be gone most of the time, for the Ministry or the Order – "
"I'm sure they'll understand. I don't think they'll give me – or us – the hardest tasks when we've just had a baby."
"So you want other people to do things we are much better at doing? Alice, even if we're not fighting, we would still need to fear for our lives. Do you want that? No child should be raised under such circumstances!"
Frank had always been her voice of reason. But somehow, she knew she was right in this, and he was wrong. Some things shouldn't be 'just so' because you had reasoned them to be so. Some things should just… feel right. And although she had to agree with Frank, having a baby in the middle of a war wasn't the best thing that could happen, but it didn't feel right to have it removed, or even to give it up for adoption.
How many times had he tried to make her see that those were good options. Most of those times, he could've convinced her, if it wasn't for the baby, kicking her slightly. It was almost as if the baby knew what was being discussed and didn't want that to happen. The baby's kicks had become her voice of reason in the arguments with Frank, even though he couldn't understand that.
"Alice? Alice?" her mother said, shaking her arm a little.
"What?" she asked, feeling disorientated. Right. She was in going to have a baby. She was going to be a mother. And as far as she knew, she'd most likely be a single mother.
"Are you ready? I'm so excited!" her mother squealed. That was something Alice had never heard her mother do before a couple of months ago, when she first told her parents she was pregnant. She hadn't even squealed when Alice had told them that Frank had proposed, a few years ago now, or when she had become an Auror, having finished all the training at last.
"I guess I'll have to be ready, don't I?" Alice said, forcing another smile. Healer Russell quickly went through all the things that would be happening once more, but before she had finished, the first contraction had come.
Wincing, Alice followed the Healer's orders that were given. Sure, she had expected it to hurt, but she hadn't thought it would hurt this much. No wonder she was an only child herself.
It was already past midnight now, and her mother was dozing off. Alice, however, wasn't. It hurt too much. Her father was in the hall, most likely pacing. When Alice had asked him to stay with her as well, he had declined, saying that he wanted it to be extra special for her to not have her father with her for once. It was true; he had always been there for her, and this was something entirely new to Alice. Her mother had laughed when her father had said that. She told her that he had been a nervous wreck when Alice had been born and that he had fainted after seeing all the blood. Twice. Of course, her father had denied this.
But no matter how her father had felt, Alice couldn't help but wonder how Frank would feel if he'd been here with her. Would he have been nervous as well? Or would he have stayed cool during the delivery? As an Auror, he'd better not be scared of blood, but he wasn't a big fan of hospitals. But then again, who was?
In the middle of the next series of contractions, Alice suddenly heard voices being raised outside, in the hallway.
"What are you doing here? We don't want you here, do you hear me?" That was definitely her father's voice. Alice hoped he wouldn't do anything he'd regret later.
"She's my wife, Carl, and I want to see her! My wife is in labour, when were you planning on telling me that?" Alice's heart skipped a beat and for a moment, the pain from the delivery was forgotten. He had come? He had come!
"So you think you can just leave her and come back whenever you please, Longbottom? Not with my daughter. Yes, she's in labour and she's having a baby and guess what? She's keeping it."
"Just let. Me. Through." Great, now Frank was losing his temper as well. "I don't care how badly I have to hurt you, but I will enter that room, if it's the last thing I do."
Right then, another contraction occurred. And this one hurt more than all the others combined, so before Alice could stop herself, she let out a scream. At this, the door flew open and both her father and Frank appeared, looking more concerned than Alice had ever seen them. Frank immediately rushed to her side and grabbed her hand in his. "Are you alright?" he asked urgently.
"What does it look like, Longbottom, does she sound alright?" Alice's father spat at him.
"Dad," Alice said, pleading with her eyes for him to lay off for now. He sighed and looked from her to her mother.
"We'll step out of the room for a moment," she told Alice. "You're doing great, honey."
When the door had closed after her parents, Alice turned to Frank, waiting for whatever it was he had to say. He swallowed, staring into her eyes, clasping her hand to pieces.
"Alice – I'm so sorry," he finally said. "I've been a right arse to you the past half year. I shouldn't have said all those things. I guess – I guess I'm the one that wasn't ready, you know? You were ready all along, I see that now. And – I'm ready for this. I promise. I'm sorry. I can understand if you don't ever want to see me again, I haven't exactly proved myself to be a very reliable husband, have I?" He smiled grimly as he said that, and although Alice knew he was right, it meant too much for her that he had come after all to send him out again. Besides, even if she wanted to, she knew she couldn't. She loved him too much. And the baby would need his father.
"You're absolutely right," she replied, though she wasn't sure if she had found the right words. "You shouldn't have done all those things. But you're here now, and you apologised. Not to mention, you faced my father in his worst mood ever to get here. And I'm glad you think you're ready for this." Alice smiled at him, and apparently unsure what to do, he smiled back a little. "But what happened to all the 'we're not old enough'-arguments and everything else?"
There was another contraction – they were coming faster and faster now. Frank looked rather scared now. "Should I call in the Healer?" he asked her anxiously. Alice shook her head; she wasn't sure if she could open her mouth and not start screaming again. Merlin knows, her father would burst into the room again and start accusing Frank of hurting her. "Alright, if you say so," he said, concern still spreading over his face. "I don't know – it just seemed right all of a sudden. And all those arguments meant nothing anymore, you know?" He shook his head, smiling to himself. "I don't know how I could have been so stupid, Alice. I'm really sorry. So, we might still be young, but we'll be fine. We might be fighting a war, but Dumbledore can give us all the extra protection we could possibly need, and we won't constantly be off fighting. And I'm sure that both our parents will love to have the baby around sometime."
"Glad you came to your senses," Alice managed to tell him, before snapping her mouth shut again. It wouldn't be long before the baby would come out, she figured.
"Yeah, me too. Can you guess who had to knock that sense into me?" Alice shook her head again, honestly having no idea at all. He grinned slightly. "James did. He apparently noticed that something was wrong at the meeting today and wouldn't let me go before I told him. It was as if I had landed in an upside down world or something. It sounded so stupid when I told him what had happened, and moreover, I couldn't let that twenty year old Marauder be more mature than I was, right?"
Just as Alice was about to reply, the baby seemed to suddenly want to come out very badly. It was almost as if it had waited for its parents to talk things through before being born. Therefore, she just nodded quickly at Frank, trying to smile but failing miserably, and then she let out another scream. She had expected that the worst was over already, but obviously, Mother Nature had kept the worst part for last.
As expected, Alice's parents immediately rushed back into the room, and Healer Russell did the same. Even in her painful state, Alice could see the foul looks her father was giving Frank, who didn't see, or pretended to. Instead, he concentrated now on crushing her hand while she tried to give birth to a healthy baby.
Soon, all the pain would be over. It could be any minute now, or so Alice hoped. Everyone around her kept telling her what she had to do and that she was doing great. Before she really knew what was happening, Healer Russell told her that she could see the baby. Frank squeezed her hand even more, and Alice's mother was already close to tears.
Moments later, Alice wasn't sure how long it had been from there, a cry was heard. The cry of a newborn baby. Frank had temporarily disappeared from her side, but he was back before she had even fully registered that. "It's a boy," he whispered excitedly, a wide grin present on his face. This made Alice smile as well; apart from the baby being healthy and alright, Frank being as happy as she was, was probably the thing she had wished for most tonight.
The Healer wrapped the baby in some blankets and handed him to Alice, with the warning that he would have to be checked up later, but she could hold him for a minute. Alice held him close, so the others could have a proper look as well. Her mother really started crying now and her father was patting her awkwardly on the back. Frank was just watching the little boy in awe. All of a sudden, the baby started crying again and Alice blinked. Right. How was she supposed to do this?
"He's hungry, Alice, honey," her mother said softly. "You should feed him." Alice flushed at this. Why didn't she think of that?
About half an hour later (Alice wasn't sure, she had no idea what the time was; since there were no windows in the room, she couldn't see if the sun had risen already or not), the Healers were doing all sorts of (hopefully harmless) tests on the baby, Frank had already owled his parents about the newest addition to the family, and now her parents were informing everyone in the family of this. "Frank," Alice asked groggily, "what time is it? I'm so tired…"
Frank turned towards her, a smile still on his face. "It's about… 10 in the morning, I believe." He checked his watch. "Yup, 10 AM it is." He sat down next to her again. "He'll be fine," he whispered. "Didn't you hear him crying? That's a sign that they're healthy."
Alice laughed at this. "You only know that because I told you, Frank." Leaning back on her cushions, she added, "How did you know I was here anyway? Who told you?"
"Well…," he started, hesitating a bit, "I just went home first, but you weren't there. So I went to your parents' house, and no one was there either. And, to be honest, I had no idea where to look next."
"So you just tried looking here, or what?" Alice asked, surprised. She would've thought that that was the first thing he'd think of, but it obviously wasn't.
"No, I went back home," he answered, slowly turning red (from embarrassment, Alice presumed). "And when I told my parents, well, my mother immediately said that you were probably giving birth right then. That freaked me out a little, I must say," he said sheepishly, as Alice was trying very hard not to frown. In the years that she and Frank had been together (quite some time by now), she had always had the feeling that Augusta Longbottom thought she wasn't good enough for her son, whatever she did. Oh, Alice had tried to get in her mother-in-law's good books, but that never earned her anything but a raised eyebrow, a sniff of the nose and a click of the tongue.
"Do you want to see our son?" Frank suddenly asked.
Alice's face lit up. "Of course!" She carefully got out of her bed, supported by Frank, and slowly made her way over to where Frank had been standing before. There, behind the glass, was their little boy. Healers and assistants were examining him carefully, and he did not seem to like it at all.
"I was really freaked out when she said you must be in St Mungo's," Frank quietly continued his earlier story. "I didn't know what I had to do. Then mum said that I should really man up and get over here, because you needed me at that moment. That I shouldn't stay at home, scared and wallowing in self-pity. That I might be an Auror, but that she couldn't see anything of my Gryffindor courage when it was most needed." He smiled wryly. "She said that you had every right to be mad at me and that I shouldn't expect to be welcomed home if you wanted nothing to do with me anymore, that I had myself to thank for that."
Alice was now genuinely surprised. This was really unexpected, the first time that Augusta Longbottom had defended her case instead of anyone else's, the first time, probably, that she had chosen Alice's side instead of Frank's. And, by the sound of it, she hadn't been very kind for him.
"What do you think we should name him?" she asked next, not quite knowing how to respond to what Frank had said. The thought had suddenly occurred to her that they had never even talked about that. Every time she would bring up something that had to do with the baby (or kids in general), it would result in another fight.
"I don't know," Frank said hesitantly. "I mean, I never thought about that."
Alice thought about the books she had read, filled with baby names. She had an entire list of possible names for boys lying at home, but for some reason, she couldn't remember a single one on it. Although… except for one.
"What do you think of Neville?" she asked cautiously.
"Neville?" Frank echoed. "I don't think I ever heard that name before. But, it's a unique name, and our child is unique, so… yeah, that could work. Besides, Neville Longbottom has a nice ring to it. How did you come up with it?"
Alice smiled, although she was quickly becoming tired more and more. "It was on my list. But it was the only one I still know. Stupid, huh?"
"Stupid?" Frank asked, chuckling slightly. "No, I think it's fate. Let's get you to bed." Alice gaped at him as he led her back to her bed. He knew her better than anyone else in the whole world.
"Well, then," she said, as she was lying comfortably on the bed, "that's settled then. Neville Frank Longbottom it is."
"You really want to call him after me?" Frank asked, surprised. "After all I put you through?"
"Yes," Alice responded, kissing him lightly. "Because that way, I'll have my two favourite boys together in one name. Convenient, no?"
"I'm sure your dad will like that," Frank mused. "Better not tell him."
"Talking about my dad, I don't think he'll let this go as easily as I have."
"That I fear as well," Frank sighed. "Well, I guess I deserve it."
"You guess?" Alice asked playfully. Although she was still tired, she was incredibly happy now.
"Alright, I deserve it," Frank said, smiling again. "Do you think they'll be finished doing all those tests on him soon?" he added, glancing worriedly at the window, behind which their little boy, Neville, was still being examined.
As if on cue, the door flew open. "Where is my grandson?" someone bellowed from outside. Alice winced. Augusta Longbottom, always with a perfect timing. And indeed, it was her. She immediately made her way over to the window, blocking Alice's and Frank's view for a moment. Then she turned around. "So you forgave him, huh?" she asked Alice, shooting a look that seemed a lot like a glare Frank's way.
"Er – yes, I did," Alice said feebly. After all those years, she was still intimidated by Frank's mother. "I guess I couldn't stay mad at him. Besides, it's better for the baby as well."
"How did the delivery go? Was he on time?" Augusta inquired.
"Fine, I think," Alice answered. "And thankfully, he was on time. I think I would have hexed him if he had been too late."
"You would first have to collect the pieces that would be left when I'd be done with him," Augusta told her, now openly glaring in her son's direction.
At that moment, Alice's parents and Frank's father walked in as well. Not really knowing what to say, they all sat (or stood) in silence, until Healer Russell came in a couple of minutes later, carrying Neville. As she handed him to Alice again, she said, "He's all fine, a healthy little boy." Alice smiled gratefully and looked down to her son. He looked so small, so tiny, so… breakable. Her mother had started crying again (at least she wasn't squealing), both their fathers were just standing there awkwardly, but smiling at the little boy nonetheless, and Augusta… she was just staring at him, as if testing him somehow. Finally, she smiled a little bit as well.
"Well done, Alice," she said. "And thank you for not listening to my son in this. I wouldn't have missed this for the world. Would you, Frank?" she finished strictly, as if daring him to say yes.
Frank cleared his throat nervously. "No, mother, I wouldn't have missed this either."
"Have you decided on a name yet?" Frank's father suddenly asked, and Alice could feel Frank's hand on her arm as if telling her that she should answer this question.
"We've decided to call him Neville," Alice replied with a smile. As expected, the others had to blink a couple of times before they could answer properly.
"Wow, Alice, that's – certainly an original name!" her mother said, still seeming perplexed.
Alice beamed at her. "That's why we chose it," she said; sure, it might not be completely true, but right now, she knew that even if she had had the list with her, they would've picked Neville.
After everybody else had gotten used to the baby's name, Alice's father smiled reassuringly at his daughter. "You'll do great," he said. "You'll be a great mother." Without paying Frank any attention, he added, "I think I'll go and see if I can get us something to eat. It's noon already, and I haven't eaten in ages."
"Bring us all something, will you?" Augusta asked, obviously trying to sound as nice as possible, "I'll be right back; the rest of the family will want to know as well."
As she walked out, her husband followed her, and Alice's mother said, "I'm going to ask the Healer when they'll discharge you. Everything seems fine, so it shouldn't be too long, I reckon."
Before they knew it, everybody had left the room. "Was it me or did I do most of the talking there?" Alice asked Frank, but not quite looking at him; rather, she was staring down at Neville again. He was such a little miracle; she had no words to describe him, since words simply weren't enough in cases like this.
"You did," Frank replied, sounding rather nervous again. "But at least no one is angry with you."
Alice laughed at him. "Come on, Frank, where's that Gryffindor courage of yours?" she teased. At once, she gasped. Neville had woken up and was now trying, it seemed, to get out of the blanket he was wrapped up in once more. "He's so tiny," she whispered in admiration. Frank could only nod.
Hours later, Alice was allowed to return home. Frank had gone ahead, since through all their fighting, the nursery was far from done. Fortunately, both their parents had not minded at all when they asked to borrow some of their own old stuff.
The entire afternoon had been filled with visits from their family and friends, all gushing over the little baby. Alice's friends from Hogwarts couldn't believe she was a mother already and the many family members had all burst into tears. When James Potter had arrived with a very pregnant Lily, he had jokingly said that they might as well stay in the hospital. Even Dumbledore had graced them with a visit. All in all, it had been very tiring, as Alice hadn't slept for a second. She couldn't wait to fall asleep; although Neville would probably be hungry during some time in the night and she'd have to wake up again. She didn't mind; she was still on cloud nine.
Placing Neville gently into the crib in their spare room, Alice smiled, and Frank put an arm around her shoulders as they watched their baby boy sleep. "Can you believe this, Frank?" Alice whispered, not wanting to wake up Neville. "We're parents; we have a son! And he's so beautiful…" When Frank didn't respond, she tore her gaze away from Neville for a second and looked at her husband. He had tears in his eyes, and she smiled. He had come back. He wasn't gone forever; he was going to stay forever. Together, they would make sure that nothing and nobody would ever harm their little boy. And she, Alice, felt like the happiest woman alive; not only hadn't she become a mother today, her baby's father was back for good. For a moment, the war seemed very far away.
A/N: Well, what do you think? I have never been through childbirth before, so that description most likely isn't very accurate. Let me know if you feel that something's (very) off and I'll change it :) So, if you liked it, please review!